Make your San Mateo neighbors disappear with privacy landscaping

Vicki Moore
Published on March 21, 2017

Make your San Mateo neighbors disappear with privacy landscaping


When looking at homes for sale in San Mateo, how much is privacy worth to you? If you place a premium on not feeling like you live in a fishbowl, we have a solution for you: landscaping. Or, to be more precise, creative landscaping that assures privacy.

Purchasing a home isn’t the only time you may want to consider privacy in your San Mateo yard.  If you’re about to sell your property and have an eyesore next door or a house that looks down into yours, consider these landscape options to increase the value of your home during your upcoming sale.

How much privacy do you want?

Before you can come up with a landscaping plan you’ll need to determine just how much solitude you want and need. The plan will be significantly more complicated and expensive if all four sides of the home need to be screened than if you only require something to block out the nosy neighbors behind your San Mateo home.

Do you want the home completely shielded from view or is a lighter touch sufficient? Dense privet hedges will screen out most views while a combination of tall perennials and trees, or widely spaced trees will ensure privacy but with a softer silhouette.



Choose the right plants

American and Green Giant arborvitae (40 to 60 feet tall in maturity) are popular and will do the trick for those who need something tall, according to the National Arbor Day Foundation.

If something more shrub-like will suffice, consider two other arborvitae – Emerald and Nigra. The former grows to 15 feet in height while the latter may reach 30 feet tall. Both can be pruned to the height you desire.

Ensure that the tree, shrub or hedge that you purchase is evergreen or you’ll lose your privacy in the winter. If you prefer deciduous plants, the experts at Colorado State University suggest you choose those with lots of stems and branches to help provide a screen even after the plant loses its foliage. Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is one suggestion.

The eventual height and width of each plant is important, but so is its hardiness zone. Assure that what you choose is adapted to San Mateo. Native plants are the ideal choice.  Cal-Native is well known in the area and can help you decide on the plants and the location for the best privacy and water conservation options.

Landscaping narrow areas

Few homeowners feel comfortable being greeted by their neighbor’s face as they make their morning coffee. If the area between your house and the neighbor’s is narrow, fill it with quick-growing, columnar trees.  Pittosporum is a great option; it grows fast and is a slender option if you only need it to create privacy and not depth.  Also consider lattice with vines like bougainvillea – a fast-growing, showy beauty or honeysuckle which not only grows fast but smells fantastic.  They both grow easily in San Mateo.  Home Depot has white plastic lattice so no painting or maintenance is needed.

Privacy for front and backyards

If your spaces are large, landscaping can be pricey. Consider using a mix of trees and shrubs with a few perennials thrown in for interest.

Blocking the bird’s eye view

Providing the privacy you crave is a bit trickier when the neighbor’s home looks down on yours. Consider planting trees with wide canopies.  Sunset Magazine has an article about things to consider when choosing a tree for your San Mateo yard.

If you prefer to focus on fruit-producing trees, UC Davis has a helpful PDF for choosing fruit, nut and berry crops for the San Mateo home garden.

By far, the best resource I found is  They are a Mid Silicon Valley non-profit “bringing nature into neighborhoods.”

“Our mission is to bring the life-giving benefits of trees to the schools, neighborhoods, and public spaces of the San Francisco Mid-Peninsula.

Our vision is a day when every resident of this area can walk, play, and thrive under the shade of healthy trees.”

They have a canopy tree library specifically for Mid Silicon Valley; an arborist referral list; and a tree hotline where you can ask your tree questions!

Be sure to do your research – that tree is going to be there for a long time!

Keeping it legal

If the home you’re considering buying, or the one in which you’re currently living is governed by a Homeowners Association, you’ll need to ensure that the privacy landscaping you want abides by the HOA rules. You’ll typically find landscaping rules in the CC&R section of the HOA documents.

Vicki Moore Realtor

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Feel free to leave a comment in the message box below, or to share this article on social media with someone who might benefit from it. I appreciate your time and am always open to questions, suggestions and ideas from our readers. Feel free to contact me by phone at 650-888-9268 or anytime at [email protected]

I help home buyers and sellers in Mid Silicon Valley focusing on the cities of  Foster City Homes and Condos For SaleRedwood City Homes and Condos For SaleRedwood Shores Homes and Condos For SaleSan Carlos Homes and Condos For SaleSan Mateo Homes and Condos For Sale. If there’s anything I can do to help you, please let me know.

Thank you, talk soon!
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